What’s going on here?

Last week, global leaders gathered in Ottawa to discuss the state of global plastic consumption. The meeting is part of wider United Nations negotiations to create the first treaty to address plastic pollution. The treaty stems from a 2022 UN Environment Programme resolution where member states agreed to “forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024.”  

What does this mean?

A treaty is due by the end of this year (2024). The negotiations last week centred on how ambitious it should be in its first iteration, with many countries divided on definitions. Where does the plastics lifecycle start? What do we mean by the sustainable production and consumption of plastics? 

The treaty has large implications for the entire plastics value chain – from the fossil fuels needed to create plastics to the disposal of plastic waste. The petrochemical industry is pushing for an emphasis on reusing and recycling plastics as opposed to capping production. On the other side, environmental and public health campaigners are hoping to see a gradual phaseout of single-use plastics. 

Why should we care?

Plastic pollution is a serious global concern for our environment and human health. An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic waste pollute our oceans each year and account for 85 percent of marine litter. Not only does this harm water quality, but plastic has been found in the digestive systems of “every marine turtle species and nearly half of all surveyed seabird and marine mammal species” according to the UN

Beyond the environment, there is growing evidence that microplastics are negatively impacting human health. Studies have shown evidence of microplastics in human placentas harming developing foetuses as well as in adult arteries clogging blood vessels. The WHO recognizes the area as one needed for further scientific research.

Be Curious!

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